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Liberals Are Suddenly Experts in Russian Espionage

Evidence-free left-wing claims that the Kremlin elected Trump are politically toxic and threaten to undermine our system

For years, ever since I left the Intelligence Community, I’ve tried to raise awareness about the rising threatto the United States and our allies of foreign espionage. My background in counterintelligence for the National Security Agency made me a rare public voice of experience discussing the spy threat to our country, its security and its prosperity.

When the Edward Snowden story broke in June 2013, I was one of the first to state publicly that this sensational saga was, in reality, a stage-managed Russian intelligence operation designed to harm the West and its powerful intelligence alliance. That fateful summer I also pointed out that there were apparent links between Wikileaks and the Kremlin. These positions won me no friends among the great and the good, and many were the mainstream journalists and pundits who castigated my reality-based assessments as “paranoid” and “McCarthyite.”

 I was right and my critics were wrong. Snowden has been working for the Russians for years, as both Washington and Moscow have now admitted. As for Wikileaks, its strong links to the Kremlin’s intelligence services are now so obvious—I issued more warnings about that only a few months ago, long before our November 8 election—that Moscow isn’t bothering to hide them any longer.

As I’ve explained in detail in column after column, Obama’s two terms in office witnessed a stunning and unprecedented withering of counterintelligence and security in Washington, the Snowden debacle being only the most-reported of the disasters which have befallen American intelligence since 2009. This carelessness allowed the Russians to gain astonishing access to the inner workings of our government and our political system. Moscow’s far-reaching hacking of Federal agencies and countless private entities forms only the visible tip of the clandestine Russian spy-iceberg which has collided with Washington in recent years.

There’s no doubt that Vladimir Putin and his spy services played operational games with our election cycle, using Wikileaks to dump tens of thousands of unflattering emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Their impact on the election is difficult to determine but it was doubtless harmful to Team Clinton.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Why Vladimir Putin Hates Us

Western inability to grasp what motivates our enemies is nothing new

He’s done it again. The honey badger in the Kremlin just moved more advanced missiles into position on Russia’s most westerly fringe to own the Baltic Sea. This week Moscow admitted it has deployed cutting-edge Bastion anti-ship missiles to the Kaliningrad exclave, north of Poland, plus equally advanced S-400 air defense systems to shoot down aircraft and missiles as far as 250 miles out.

With this move, the Kremlin has established control over the Baltic Sea, most of Poland and the Baltic republics—NATO members all. Russia now can exert anti-access and area denial—what the Pentagon calls A2AD for short—at will, meaning that any NATO aircraft or ships entering the region can be hit long before they get close to Kaliningrad. For Western military planners, this is nothing short of a nightmare, since Moscow can now block NATO reinforcements headed east to counter, say, Russian military moves on the vulnerable Baltic republics.

That scenario, wherein Moscow’s forces overrun a Baltic republic or two before NATO can meaningfully respond, is judged alarmingly plausible by Alliance planners, yet nobody should be surprised that Vladimir Putin has done this. One month ago, when he moved nuclear-capable Iskander-M ballistic missiles into Kaliningrad last month, initiating a Baltic version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Obama’s response was…nothing.

The outgoing commander-in-chief decided that he needed to appease the Kremlin one more time before leaving the White House, to the horror of our allies who live close to Russia. “We’re on our own until January 20, and maybe much longer,” was how a senior Alliance defense official in that neighborhood explained the reality of what Obama has done through his inaction.

For good measure, this week the Russian defense ministry indicated that the deployment of Iskander-M systems to Kaliningrad, which Moscow has said was merely part of a military exercise, will be staying there permanently. Since those missiles can launch nuclear or conventional warheads as far as 300 miles with stunning accuracy, Russia now holds a powerful military advantage over NATO in the Baltic region.

Read the rest at The Observer …

James Clapper, America’s Top Spymaster, Steps Down—Here’s What Happens Next

Staffing the next DNI is especially important for Trump, given his limited experience in espionage and national security

This morning, as he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, James Clapper, our Director of National Intelligence, announced his resignation, effective January 20, 2017—the day Donald Trump will be inaugurated as America’s 45th president.

Submitting his resignation “felt pretty good,” Clapper told committee members, adding, “I have 64 days left and I’d have a pretty hard time with my wife going past that.” In fact, his resignation had been anticipated for months and was no surprise to the committee, since Clapper has been the DNI for more than six years, and President Trump will want his own person in that important job.

The DNI position was created in April 2005, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, as part of a Congressionally-mandated effort to improve high-end command, control, and coordination across the behemoth Intelligence Community. Clapper, who assumed the job in August 2010, served longer as DNI than his three predecessors combined. He is generally assessed as the best DNI to date, allowing that there’s not much competition there.

It’s a tough job, since the Intelligence Community is a diverse mix of top secret bureaucracies which don’t always play well together. The IC is made up of 16 different spy agencies—17 if you count the amply-sized Office of the DNI, which is a Beltway player in its own right—and there’s a reason American intelligence professionals love jokes about cat-herding. None can deny that, particularly under Clapper, the DNI grew more effective at getting our spy agencies to play well together, and information sharing across the IC has unquestionably improved over the last decade.

Some of his success as America’s top spymaster can be attributed to Jim Clapper being a career intelligence officer who knows the business from the ground up. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1963, Clapper served in Vietnam, including 73 combat support missions, collecting airborne signals intelligence, and he was appointed director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1991. He retired from active duty in 1995 as a three-star general, worked in the private sector for six years, then was appointed the civilian director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2001.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Who Murdered Olof Palme?

Over 30 years after Sweden’s prime minister was gunned down on the streets of Stockholm, the mystery may finally be solved

It was a shocking crime by any standards, but in placid Sweden it was unthinkable. On the cold and wintry evening of February 28, 1986, Olof Palme, the country’s longtime prime minister, was walking home from the cinema, through downtown Stockholm, with his wife. The couple had gone out for the evening, on short notice, without a bodyguard.

Forty minutes before midnight, Palme was killed by a shot to the back, at very close range. His wife, Lisbet, was wounded by a second shot. There were several witnesses to the assassination, but none of them got a good look at the gunman. The prime minister was rushed to the hospital, only to be declared dead on arrival.

A massive manhunt ensued but didn’t make much progress since the description of the killer offered by witnesses was vague: white, between 30 and 50 years of age, of average height and build. This was clearly no random act, and Sweden went into a kind of shock. The country was unaccustomed to political violence, and Palme for decades had been an international icon, a lion of the democratic socialist left.

More than 10,000 people were questioned by the police during the course of the murder investigation, while 134 came forward to confess to the crime—all falsely. The inquiry soon stalled for lack of solid leads and appeared dead in the water until 1988, when the police arrested 42-year-old Christer Pettersson, a habitual criminal and addict who had previously been jailed for manslaughter.

The case seemed to be closed when Lisbet Palme identified Pettersson in a police lineup, but doubts lingered since the police never found the murder weapon, a .357 Magnum pistol, neither could they detect a motive for why a petty criminal—a fellow socialist like Pettersson—killed the prime minister. Nevertheless, Sweden wanted closure, and Pettersson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Read the rest at The Observer …

America’s Emerging Nationalism Crisis

Progressives managed not to see the nose on their face

The election of Donald Trump as our next president heralds a new political epoch for the United States. Whatever his shortcomings as a candidate, the Republican nominee, a political neophyte, slayed both of the political dynasties that had more or less run our national life for the last three decades. There won’t be anyone named Bush or Clinton around the White House for a good long while now. This is no mean feat, not to mention something for which all Americans who dislike dynasties should be grateful.

How Trump did it is being hotly debated. True to form, Hillary Clinton has announced that her loss is all the fault of the FBI and its director, whose eleventh-hour reopening of her email scandal sank her at the ballot box. Whatever one thinks of James Comey, who has managed to offend both right and left in recent months, the notion that his investigation of Hillary’s emails, rather than her own mistakes as secretary of state—the steadfast refusal to use government email for government work, her “private” server of bathroom infamy, all the highly classified information that wound up in her “unclassified” emails, not to mention her innumerable lies about it all—constituted the real problem in EmailGate reeks of the purest Clintonism.

Democrats are also pointing a finger at Moscow, claiming that its secret ties to the Trump campaign plus the clandestine help of Wikileaks, whose massive dumps of Democratic emails painted Team Hillary in a highly unfavorable light, ultimately did in Clinton, Inc. Here they’re on somewhat firmer ground. Kremlin interference played a role in the campaign—exactly how much will be debated for decades—in a manner that should trouble all Americans.

That said, there’s not much to deny here, since Moscow has now admitted its previously hush-hush ties to Wikileaks and its contacts with members of the Trump campaign. Moreover, those who are now so eager to find Russians under every bed in Washington are the same people who pooh-poohed warnings about Wikileaks and the Kremlin—I was issuing them years ago—as scaremongering. It’s too late now, the election’s over. Time to move on, learn lessons, and accept the people’s verdict.

Some Americans are clearly not ready to move on. Their radical fringe has been fighting in the streets, rioting and burning trees to show their displeasure, thereby proving true all the nasty things that Trump has said about the nut-left. The ugly nature of these outbursts has many wondering what has happened to the country. However, when Democratic leaders publicly denounce Trump and the Republicans as the party of “hate” it’s not surprising that the country’s perennially aggrieved lumpenriot contingent takes action.

Read the rest at The Observer …

A Roadmap: National Security Under President Donald Trump

Obama made national security as partisan as everything else he touched—don’t repeat that mistake

Dear President-Elect Trump: Congratulations on a winning a hard-fought campaign. I haven’t always been your biggest fan (I wasn’t your opponent’s either) but you will soon enter the Oval Office facing more diverse security challenges, in more corners of the globe, than perhaps any of your predecessors. You’ll need help.

The world you’re about to encounter as our commander-in-chief is more dangerous and discombobulated than any new president has encountered in many decades. Your bumbling predecessor hasn’t exactly done you many favo

Russia: You made being friends with Russia a cornerstone of your campaign. You’re about to find out how tricky that will be in practice. Washington and Moscow have deeply embedded strategic interests that aren’t necessarily compatible, beyond platitudes. Vladimir Putin wants to shake your hand but he will not be charmed out of defending his country’s vital interests. President Obama’s denial and timidity together comprised one of the main causes of the West’s current problems with Russia. Putin runs a country that, aside from its several thousand nuclear weapons, is in economic and demographic decline: it’s hardly more than Mexico with ICBMs. Yet Russia can still cause enormous damage to the international system. Putin is a cunning operator thanks to his KGB background. We can partner with Russia on some issues but never mistake partnership for genuine friendship: Moscow doesn’t do either. Let’s walk through some must-dos, with a healthy dose of geopolitical reality.

Europe/NATO: Our NATO allies never had much faith in your predecessor and during your campaign you scared the hell out of them. The Atlantic Alliance isn’t in good shape, and it’s facing a real enemy for the first time in a quarter-century. Unless you want to dismantle NATO—which would be very unwise, strategically—there’s hard work to be done. Military spending by NATO members, beyond a few outliers, still lags below the notionally required two percent of GDP. You need to get our partners to ante up; try to be tactful, they dislike you already. Moreover, unless you can seriously charm Putin, limited NATO deployments in Eastern Europe may be the start, not the end-state, of what the Alliance must do to deter Russian adventurism. Make clear to our allies that we are behind them, that you understand Article 5, but they need to meet their alliance commitments too. Drop talk of NATO expansion—it’s not going to happen and just feeds the Russian agitprop machine. Finland and Sweden are different, they’re welcome, but that’s as far as that should go right now.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Media Bites on Trump’s Kremlin Ties, but Clinton’s Are Long-Standing and Deep

Donald Trump isn’t the only presidential nominee this year with ties to Russian intelligence—but the mainstream media won’t tell you that

Right now, on the eve of our election, Democrats are engaging in public efforts to expose Kremlin espionage in America with a passion that official Washington hasn’t shown on this issue since the early years of the Cold War. Press reports are aflutter with rumors of Russian moles while members of Congress are hurling accusations of collusion with Moscow with reckless abandon. All that’s missing is Senator Joe McCarthy—and some Democrats are doing their best to channel him too.

As someone who’s long urged Americans to get serious about counterintelligence, particularly regarding the oversized spy threat we face from Russia, this is welcome news. Kremlin efforts to meddle in our election have concentrated minds which previously had paid zero attention to such dark arts. When you go after their presidential nominee, Democrats suddenly get very interested.

However, that excitement needs to be properly channeled into serious inquiries, not rumor-mongering and spy-mania. Let it be said that there certainly are counterintelligence concerns about Donald Trump which require resolution. His slavish public devotion to the Kremlin line on numerous issues is a concern I’ve raised more than once, as is his unwillingness to criticize Vladimir Putin.

Then there are the disturbing Russian linkages of key members of Team Trump, past and present, from Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn to Roger Stone and Carter Page. Longstanding rumors of Russian money bankrolling the Trump Organization—not necessarily from legitimate sources—should be resolved, but can’t be since Trump refuses to release his tax returns and insists on keeping his murky finances from public scrutiny.

That said, nobody acquainted with Russian intelligence and its spycraft is suggesting that Trump is anything like a mole. Someone as erratic as Trump, prone to public outbursts, would never be deemed suitable for long-term clandestine work by the Russians—or any competent intelligence service. However, there is reason to believe that Moscow considers him an agent of influence, to use Kremlin-speak. That special category of operative was defined by the KGB as:

Read the rest at The Observer …